Review: LISTENING Is an Ambitious Sci-fi Film About Mind Reading Tech and Freewill — FilmQuest Festival

Listening, the debut film from writer-director Khalil Sullins, is a science fiction movie with both substance and style. The film is about with two broke and daring grad students, David (Thomas Stroppel) and Ryan (Artie Ahr), who are refining their mind reading technology. They meet the alluring and intelligent Jordan (Amber Marie Bollinger) who helps them with a major breakthrough. The movie is very much a Pandora's box tale about how mind reading technology can be used for great good and evil, but mostly evil.

The first half of Listening feels like another sci-fi movie, Primer, but a bit more polished. Heavy tech dialog and building montages are broken up with the emotional personal lives of David and Ryan. David's marriage to Melanie (Christine Haeberma) is tenuous, and his single-minded focus makes him a bad father. Ryan lives in a studio apartment with is ailing grandmother and is an unapologetic womanizer. Because of the time required by the main storyline's science, the emotional scenes don't hold a lot of air. You don't get enough time to see the characters processing what's going on.

The soon to be evicted David and the flat broke Ryan race to create a stable, usable technology by stealing equipment from university labs and elsewhere. All the stealing puts them on the radar of a dark, clandestine group that is pursuing the same technology. The movie takes several turns, and David and Ryan become divided about the technology's applications. After the two are captured, it becomes "brawn versus mind" with an ending that's intelligently set up but you won't see coming.

It feels like the Sullins is working at the very ends of his budget, yet still manages to create a stylish sci-fi flick. I'm really interested to see what he might be able to to do with a larger budget. If you've enjoyed movies like I Origins and Primer, check out Listening.

To find information about when it might be screening near you, check out the movie's site Listeningmovie.com.

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